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JAY WECHSLER v. FRADA REZET NEWMAN AND DONALD NEWMAN (07/12/78)

decided: July 12, 1978.

JAY WECHSLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRADA REZET NEWMAN AND DONALD NEWMAN, APPELLANTS



No. 1973 October Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, in the matter docketed February Term, 1976, No. 552.

COUNSEL

Nancy L. Ford, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Gary F. DiVito, Philadelphia, for plaintiff.

Jacobs, President Judge and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 256 Pa. Super. Page 83]

Appellants, tenants in an apartment complex owned by appellee, contend that the lower court erred in dismissing their preliminary objections. According to appellants, the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain appellee's complaint in ejectment and assumpsit because the parties had entered into a contractual agreement providing for binding arbitration. Because we believe that the lower court did have jurisdiction over the instant dispute, we affirm the order of the lower court.

On June 21, 1973, Charles E. Goldman, owner of the Pastorius Court apartment complex at 501 W. Hortter Street in Philadelphia, entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Pastorius Court Tenants Council. This agreement constructed a channel for communications between the landlord and his tenants and attempted to regulate issues of common interest to all tenants and the landlord; it bound Goldman's successors,*fn1 as well as the Tenants Council's individual members, including appellants. Article V incorporated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement into all individual leases between the landlord and council members. Article VI required the landlord to furnish the Tenants Council with information relevant to any request for a rental increase. Article XV of the agreement stipulated that the rents for all council members would remain at the current level until the expiration of their individual leases. During the term of the collective bargaining agreement, the rent for a three bedroom apartment would not exceed $180 a month. The collective bargaining agreement also contained a grievance procedure which covered ". . . any and all disputes between Landlord and any tenant members, between Landlord and Tenants Council

[ 256 Pa. Super. Page 84]

    involving the interpretation, application, or coverage of this Agreement. . . ." In the event that a dispute arising under the agreement could not be amicably settled, the agreement provided for arbitration in the following language: "Either party may submit any unresolved issues to binding arbitration pursuant to the rules of the Center for Dispute Settlement of the American Arbitration Association." Finally, the agreement provided that it would remain in effect for twenty four months from the date of its June 21, 1973 execution; a proviso stipulated that "[n]inety days prior to this expiration date, the parties shall begin negotiations in good faith to reach a new Agreement."

Appellants, lessees at the time the Tenants Council and Goldman executed the collective bargaining agreement, entered into a new lease agreement with appellee on September 19, 1974. This lease provided that appellants would pay $180 per month rent for a three bedroom apartment for the period commencing October 1, 1974, and expiring September 30, 1975.

On March 27, 1975, appellee sent appellants written notice of the termination of their present lease together with a copy of a new lease which would run from October 1, 1975, to September 31, 1976. Under this lease, appellants' monthly rent would increase to $240. Appellants did not sign this lease.

Prior to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the Pastorius Tenants Council sought to negotiate an extension with appellee. When appellee failed to respond in a manner satisfactory to the Tenants Council, the Council on June 16, 1975, filed a formal request for binding arbitration with the Community Disputes Settlement Panel. The request alleged that appellee had refused to enter into good faith negotiations over an extension of the agreement; for relief, the Council ...


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